Corazon C. Aquino was born in Paniqui, Tarlac. She was the 11th President of the Philippines and the first woman to hold the office. She came into power after the bloodless EDSA revolution of 1986, which restored democracy in the country. As Commander-in-Chief, she defended this democracy, withstanding several coup attempts through her term, which lasted from February 25, 1986 to June 30, 1992.
Davide Commission Report
After the bloodiest coup d’etat attempt of her term, President Corazon C. Aquino issued Administrative Order No. 146, s. 1989 which created a special ad hoc commission tasked with investigating the events that happened December of that year. Hilario G. Davide, Jr. was appointed as chairman of this committee with Ricardo J. Romulo, Leonardo Z. Legaspi, Carolina G. Hernandez, and Delfin L. Lazaro as members. Congress, thereafter, passed Republic Act No. 6832, instilling the commission into law and requiring it to submit recommendations to prevent future coups. The Davide Commission finished and submitted the results of its investigation on October 1990.
Press Conference of President Corazon C. Aquino after the Coup attempt of August 1987
The story of President Corazon C. Aquino
The administration of Corazon C. Aquino reinstituted and fostered a nation’s democracy, its first incarnation having been a nonviolent revolution that seized from a fading dictator the reins of power. It likewise saw the evolution of the woman at its helm, who not only had to fulfill the mandate of a presidency, but also stand firm against the challenges that face any newfound liberty: “a new and inexperienced government; the deposed ruling elite attempting to regain power; and, a powerful military in an uneasy partnership with its former enemies.”
Mrs. Aquino’s story is that of a political bildungsroman (a coming-of-age tale), one that has firmly placed her among our pantheon of heroes—she who first glimmered into collective consciousness as the wife of a vocal Marcos critic and subsequent political detainee; she who was then thrust from this initial role to that of the unifying symbol as the widow of her martyred husband. The soft-spoken housewife took on the mantle of a yellow dress and wielded her Laban sign; with that iron will disguised by a silent determination, she led millions of Filipinos to unshackle themselves from a dictatorship, and midwifed a renewed hope to the Philippines. In her presidency, the country saw her staring down attempts at reversing the gains made under restored democratic rule, saw her standing resolute against the most serious and bloodiest challenges to modern Philippine democracy and civilian supremacy.
In the generation that followed, it is this side of Tita Cory that took a step back from her foremost image as the yellow-clad nurturer of Philippine democracy. And it is this side that the Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office brings to the fore on the commemoration of her 80th birth anniversary: Cory Aquino, the Commander-in-Chief, the defender of the Fifth Republic.
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“The tragedy of a coup d’etat is that it is planned and executed by military officers who have pledged loyalty to the Constitution, the duly constituted government, and the Commander-in-Chief.” – From The Aquino Management of the Presidency: In Times of Crisis by the Presidential Management Staff, Office of the President
The bloodiest coup d’etat attempt of President Aquino’s term was staged on December 1989. It left 99 dead and 570 wounded, among them civilians, and cost the Armed Forces of the Philippines P469 million worth of facilities, equipment, and other property; foreign investments and tourist arrivals declined due to doubts of the country’s political stability. It was an alliance of the Reform the Armed Forces Movement (RAM) and members of the Armed Forces that remained loyal to the Marcos regime; the coup attempt was led by then-Colonel Gregorio Honasan. The coup, though bloody and costly and would extend many political ramifications, was stamped out in a matter of days–under the leadership of President Aquino.
As the country recovered, President Aquino issued Administrative Order No. 146, s. 1989, which created a special ad-hoc commission tasked with investigating this most recent coup attempt. Hilario G. Davide Jr. was appointed as chairman of this committee, with Ricardo J. Romulo, Leonardo Z. Legaspi, Carolina G. Hernandez, Delfin L. Lazaro as members. Congress, thereafter, passed Republic Act No. 6832 instilling the commission into law and requiring it to submit recommendations to prevent future coups. The Davide Commission submitted the results of its investigation on October 1990, recommending reforms to the Armed Forces of the Philippines–reforms that would be followed through in the term of President Aquino’s predecessor, her trusted ally in the Armed Forces, General Fidel V. Ramos.
The December 1989 coup attempt–though the one that posed the gravest threat to the presidency, not to mention to the President’s life–was not the first (nor would it be the last crisis the Aquino administration would face and weather through). Barely four months after the toppling of the dictatorship and the establishment of the free and democratic Fifth Republic, President Corazon C. Aquino was facing the first of many challenges to her reign.
Arturo M. Tolentino, pre-Martial Law Senator and Assemblyman from Metro Manila, had in February 1986 been proclaimed by the Batasan Pambansa as the duly elected Vice President of the Philippines. In a typewritten letter dated June 26, 1986 addressed to Nicanor Yñiguez, Speaker of the now-defunct Batasan Pambansa, deposed President Ferdinand E. Marcos had said:
Pursuant to and in accordance with Sec. 6 of BP 822 otherwise known as Presidential Succession Law, I hereby notify you that I am temporarily unable to perform my duties as President, hence, Vice-President (sic) Arturo M. Tolentino may now act as Acting President.
In the days leading to Tolentino’s attempted power grab, thousands of Marcos loyalists led by former KBL Assemblymen stormed Malacañan Palace and went as close as the Ayala Bridge where they faced the barricades and were repelled by government troops. The crescendo was Tolentino taking his oath as President in the historic Manila Hotel amid the loyalist chants of “Marcos pa rin!” But the people did not stir, and the mini-rebellion was put down. The nascent Republic which the widow clad in yellow had helped restore and rebuild had weathered the first of its many political storms. Mrs. Aquino, the true President and the Commander-in-Chief, was firmly in control.
This determination would face a more serious threat in the year that followed, when rebel soldiers of RAM attacked the Palace and gunned down several members of the Presidential Security Group. Lives were lost on both sides, the President’s only son was wounded in the assault. The rebels were repulsed and failed to lay siege on government-owned Channel 4. Then came a gratuitous blow from the rebel forces right before curtain call: The attack on the Palace having been a failure, one compounded by jeering civilians as the rebels withdrew to Camp Aguinaldo, “the rebels went on a savage orgy to vent their frustration–they killed 11 and wounded 54 unarmed civilians.” But the putschists lost, the Republic was saved.
On December 1989 came the most serious assault on the Presidency–a coordinated series of attacks on key military bases, including bombardment and strafing of the seat of Philippine government. But the President rallied her forces and drew on the reforms instituted in the wake of previous coup attempts. Those loyal to the Constitution, to the duly constituted government, to the Commander-in-Chief, and to the Filipino people once again quenched the rebel forces. The soft-spoken housewife–having several times proven herself a quiet victor–had stood once again to defend the nation’s treasured democracy.
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In commemoration of the 80th birth anniversary of President Corazon C. Aquino, the Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office (PCDSPO) has published multimedia historical series on President Corazon C. Aquino as commander-in-chief and defender of the Fifth Republic–including photos and videos of the President during key crisis points she had overcome.
This will be accompanied by a landmark in the ongoing institutional memory efforts of the Official Gazette online: www.officialgazette.gov.ph will be making available online the full report of the Davide Commission, tasked to investigate the 1989 coup attempt, as well as the official Presidential Management Staff narrative, The Aquino Management of the Presidency: In Face of Crisis, which forms part of the overall official history of the Aquino administration–this chapter, in particular, focuses on “the seven putsches and related events which threatened the existence of the government or the unity of the armed forces.”
It was not with irony that her rallying cries and her deeds on behalf of the nation still ring true a generation later who identify her as the undying symbol of our nation’s freedom and the sanctity of our constitutional government. This online observance on the 80th birth anniversary of our nation’s greatest heroes seeks to perpetuate the nobility and the tenacity of the Filipino people, best personified by Mrs. Aquino who stared down attempts at reversing the gains made under restored democratic rule.
The Aquino Management of the Presidency
After the term of President Corazon C. Aquino, a series of publications were released by the Presidential Management Staff, at the very end of her term, summarizing the achievements of the administration. Click the links below to download the corresponding publication.
- Bread and Dignity
- Foundation for Policy Making
- Her People’s Emissary
- In the Face of Crisis
- One with Her People
- People Empowerment
- Power to the Regions
- The Crowded City
- The President Report
- The Rebuilder
*Source: Aquino Foundation website, published by the Presidential Management Staff, 1992.